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Credit cards are indentured servitude

4 Sep

The devil wants you to wear Prada you can’t pay for.

“I can’t really afford this,” friends say to me about everything from their monthly rent to a handbag. “But oh well! I DESERVE IT”

Because overspending is so rampant in our age group, the only acceptable response to this seems to be an approving chuckle, as if to say, “Hey, everyone’s doing it.” Carrying a balance is now the norm.

But that can we’re kicking down the road is VERY real, and getting rustier by the day. Full disclosure: I have never not paid my balance in full — I’m a “deadbeat” in card-company lingo — but I have had to loan myself money from savings to tide myself over from too many swipes of said card. Paying myself back with 0% interest (and losing interest, as said money is supposed to be in savings) is hard enough. Paying some corporation to lend me money? No thanks.

Here are some sobering numbers from a NY1 story that ran recently:

According to Sallie Mae, the average college student graduates with over $4,000 in credit card debt, with most of them at an interest rate of 14 percent. That means should they only make their minimum monthly payment, they’ll pay over $5,000 in interest alone before that debt is cleared.

Five grand is a heavy price to pay when we feel we “deserve” a lifestyle we can’t pay for. With your permission, these companies are getting rich off our lack of self-control. I am not anti-credit card; I am just anti-using it for stuff you can’t afford.

And once you establish a lifestyle that depends on spending more than you make, oh man is it hard to cut back. Just ask my friend who makes more than twice my salary and is approaching $10K in debt. When you make so little, this kind of thing is baffling.“How can that much money not be enough?” It’s about habits. We say we’ll save more when we have enough left over to save. Hear me clearly: YOU WILL NEVER HAVE ENOUGH. Enough is arbitrary — ask your nearest bankrupt celebrity.

Frivolous credit card debt — which I am defining to mean debt incurred by wants, not emergencies — happens because we feel entitled. Entitled to have a bigger apartment, to party harder, to wear labels. And it’s slavery. I truly believe being cash-poor is a character-building exercise; so is living beneath your means. Without these skills, how can one ever appreciate real wealth when it happens to us?

Achievement means more when you’ve come up through the ranks, not when you’ve been placed there.


How to get in to a Broadway show for free or cheap

3 Sep

It was last summer, and I was bored on a Sunday night when I remembered a story my dad told me about being in the city on business years ago. He landed a center orchestra seat to “Annie” on Broadway for free by hanging around the theater and mentioning to a few people that he was looking for just one ticket (going alone is optimal). A guy had a friend who was home throwing up or something, so YAY!, they gave my dad the free ticket.

These things happen. You might not get the ticket free, but if someone’s in a bind, negotiate. Of course, there’s always the chance that no one will be needing to unload a ticket at the show you want to see, but just go to another theater! If you can get a bargain by buying a ticket off someone (NOT a scalper, but someone who’s just in a jam), who knows what you might want to see!

That said, do this discreetly. An usher shooed me away from Mary Poppins once under the guise he was afraid I’d get scalped. I had made an 8.5×11 sign that said “Need 1 ticket please (smiley face)!” What’s not to love? Well, that, I guess. I didn’t get arrested or anything, but do this at your own risk.

Slightly-less-last-minute options: If you’re not familiar with TKTS and/or following them on Twitter, do it now; it’s the best way to find out what’s on discount today.

Rush and standing room: Here are the recently updated policies for the shows playing now. This makes me want to see so many things — again or for the first time!

“Should I move to NYC without a job?”

2 Sep

I’ve been getting e-mail about this topic, which seems to strike fear in the hearts of New New Yorkers more than apartment hunting and subway navigation combined. Here are the biggest questions I get on this topic, and my take on things:

Is it true that I won’t get hired until I live there?

Not necessarily. Go full speed ahead, just like you would in any job search, and your odds are automatically better than if you go into it not expecting to pull it off. However, it is true that many companies are hesitant to hire someone who doesn’t yet live here. Think of it this way: These guys have easy access to HUNDREDS of people who are already here, who can show up for an interview the same day.

Should I use a fake address on my resume?

No, no and no. Long story short: I was advised to do this, and then I realized, HEY, that’s lying. Because what if they say, “Great, come by tomorrow for an interview!” Then you’re screwed.

Should I make a preliminary trip out there?

Yes. I came about six months before I moved to go on informational interviews and lunches. I started asking everyone I knew who they knew, and that lead more places than I would’ve thought, especially when you talk with people in your field. People like to help people — meet as many people as you can before you show up here.

What can I do to prepare for New York from where I live now?

Pursue every lead/connection you have while you’re still employed; there are probably a few people your current employer could put you in touch with. Bosses love to make calls to hiring managers that start with, “Boy, have I got a great lady for you! I wish I could keep her, but she’s moving to NYC, and you should hire her for [position XYZ].” This is how most non-entry-level hiring happens.

How can I end things on good terms with my existing employer?

First of all, if you have a good boss, they’ll be sad to lose you, but happy for you. If moving day comes and you’re not yet employed in NYC, there’s no harm in asking your current company if, while you’re in limbo, you can continue freelancing or consulting for them on a per-project basis or whatnot. All they can say is no — and if they say yes, you’ve got some extra time to be choosy (not to mention money coming in).

How much should I save before I arrive?

This depends on the level of others’ involvement in your finances, but what you absolutely don’t want is to be cornered into taking a job you don’t want when nothing else has come along and you’re worried you won’t make rent. So my answer is SAVE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. If you need money, you’ll have it — and if you don’t need it, hey, you’ll still have it.

….What’d I miss?